Colossians 2:7 (NLT)
“Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”
Youth ministry is one of the most important and well-funded ministries at any church. Everybody, even those without children, recognizes the benefits of presenting the Gospel to children. The goal is that by raising children with a desire to seek God, these young people will continue on a Christian journey when they become adults. However, a study by Lifeway Research found that 70% of young adults drop out of church. 80% of those that drop out had no plans to do so while in high school. This indicates to me that teenagers are still active in the church while living with their parents, but the connection to the church universal is lost when the teen moves out.
I am reminded of a book titled “The Faith of Our Fathers: A Plain Exposition and Vindication of the Church Founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ” by Archbishop James Gibbons which was published in 1876. The book became a best-selling conversion manual in the United States and by 1980 was in its 111th printing. Perhaps the reason young people are leaving is because as children their faith was “the faith of their fathers.” The issue might be that we are raising children and giving them our faith, but we are failing to develop their own faith. So, when they leave the house and the parents are not present, the Christian “pilot light” goes out. Children have to choose to follow God. If they are forced, then they will not develop faith and have no spiritual roots.
I enjoy the special Sunday each year when the youth that have completed the confirmation process are called up to the front of the church, presented a Bible, and become members of the local church. This seems to be the start of a wonderful Christian journey. I now wonder what can we as the local church do to support the parents and help these children stay connected to Jesus?
I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I do have a few ideas that I hope will be useful or at least stimulate some fruitful discussion. First, the importance of the family cannot be overemphasized. At home it is so important for fathers to speak and live the Gospel. This is done by praying for and with your family, loving and supporting your wife, be actively engaged in the Christian and secular life of your children, witness to your children how Christ has helped you to become a better person and continues to work in your life, and let children know that evil does exist but it certainly does not come from God but is used by God to bring about good.
In short, fathers should actively seek out discipleship opportunities for their children. These opportunities will exist inside and outside of the church and can range from volunteering at a local food bank to offering a prayer before a child’s sports event. A child needs to know that their father and Heavenly Father love them unconditionally. Then, when the child leaves the home, prayerfully and hopefully they will choose to stay connected to the Vine.
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, We know that you are a good father. Help us to not only raise good children but to raise children that will choose to be your life-long disciples. In those instances when we fall short in our parenting, please send your Holy Spirit to fill the void. Amen.
Todd Shupe is a native of Carrollton, IL, a small rural town in west central Illinois. He earned his BS and MS in Wood Science from the University of Illinois and a PhD in Wood Science from Louisiana State University. He has a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma and is a Green Associate in LEED. He worked as a Professor and ISO 17025 Lab Director for 20 years and now works as a wood science consultant at www.drtoddshupe.com to continue to help companies bring new building products and wood preservatives to market, conduct in house training, improve product quality and production, and serve as an expert witness. Todd is currently in training to be a Men’s Ministry Specialist under the direction of the General Commission of United Methodist Men and is concurrently in training to become a Lay Minister under the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. He enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading, fishing, and writing inspirational Christian blogs at toddshupe.com and todd-shupe.com.